Stop Walking on Eggshells

When someone in your life has borderline or narcissistic personality disorder

What Have You Done for Me Lately? Entitlement: A Key Narcissistic Trait

A sense of entitlement is a narcissistic, not borderline, trait

In the borderline personality disorder online community, there is a lot of confusion about the difference between BPD and narcissistic personality disorder. Many similarities exist. But clear differences are just as visible. One of them is a sense of entitlement. This post will focus on that: upcoming posts will look at other differences.

Today I read this post on Welcome to Oz:

I am pretty sure my exboyfriend has borderline personality disorder, and having read and posted on this board for several months, each thing I read confirms it more. Of course, he thinks nothing is wrong with him so he would never go to therapy much less ever get a diagnosis, so we can only go on my observations.

He was the most entitled person I have ever met. He took whatever I gave him, and demanded more, more, more without ever understanding that relationships are two way streets and I should get some of the benefits of life too. I paid all the bills and he saw no problem with this whatsoever. In fact, if I mentioned it, that was "punishing" him. He took it for granted, just like breathing, that I should meet all of his needs without question or complaint yet never in a million years would he do 1% of those things for me.

When he did do something small around the house, I had to oooh and aaah for several days. Yet in a day where he worked 30 minutes, he never once thanked me for working 15 hours (boy just writing this makes me feel like an idiot and sooooo glad the relationship is over).

He could be carelessly cruel and a calculating manipulator. He lied easily. So perhaps he was narcissist and sociopath too. The labels don't matter. He treated me badly, I allowed him to treat me badly, then I woke up and ended it. I feel 100% sure he had some significant mental illness and won't get better without therapy--that is what I needed to know for closure.

Actually, getting the accurate diagnosis DOES matter in mental illness just as much as it does in physical illness. Much is made about the similarities of BPD and NPD. But there are some critical differences, too, and one of them is that narcissists have a sense of entitlement; people with borderline disorder do not.

Here is how one narcissist describes his sense of entitlement. (Oficially, the wording of the trait in the DSM-IV is, "Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.")

I feel like I never had what I needed, so I didn't feel bad about taking what I wanted, be it taking credit for other people's work, sleeping with other people's girlfriends, or just taking whatever object I wanted at the time. Taking didn't (always) mean theft, but it did mean I sometimes shorted others, or made them wait, or whatever. If I wanted it, I would get it, because I deserved it. Rules, laws, and social contracts are for people who need guidelines. I don't, so I make my own rules and don't care if you don't like them. You just don't know any better. If you did, you wouldn't question me.

Here is how Sam Vaknin, someone who has NPD and is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism: Revisited, describes it: "I demand to be served, attended and catered to by the main honcho: the most senior doctor, the head waiter, the government Minister, leaders and senior executives and editors-in-chief. With my illustrious career and superior traits, skills, and talents I deserve my match and only the best and am entitled to the grandest." 

What is Entitlement Really About?

"Hell hath no fury like a narcissist denied," says Sandy Hotchkiss, author of Why Is It Always About You?" Hotchkiss explains that narcissistic entitlement has nothing to do with real self-worth; that is, the belief that one is worthy of accomplishments earned through hard work. Instead, the narcissist is like a small child who never learned she is not the center of the universe and throws tantrums when outsiders don't meet their narcissistic demands (p. 20)

Let's take a look at some examples:

  • Deanna felt entitled to special treatment because of her professional background, her good looks, and her upscale childhood in New York City. She would become abusive, paranoid, and angry whenever she did not get her way. Other people would give in because they didn't want to cause a scene. She was charming and emotionally seductive to get people to cater to her requests--a trait she tells everyone she despises in others.
  • After their final breakup, James broke into his girlfriend's house while she was at work. When she got home, the house was ransacked. She immediately called him about the mess: he said yes, it was him, and if she had a problem with it then she should call the police.
  • Rules never seemed to apply to Judy's husband Ron. He didn't need to answer the phone when she called, but if she didn't pick up the phone right away he would call back five or six times and angrily demand to know why she didn't pick up. If the family was going somewhere, Ron could make them wait for hours. But when he was ready, they all had to be in the car, waiting.
  • Although the family didn't have a lot of money, Sheila bought herself expensive silk dresses and pearl earrings. She had unnecessary plastic surgery that was not covered by insurance. When her husband dared to question it, she lied about cancelling the surgery. When he found out she had it anyway, she said he had it because she "fucking deserved it."
  • Dan tried to convince his wife that he shouldn't have to warm up dinner himself when he gets home late, so she shouldn't go out at night with the kids. After they had a long argument, he drove himself to a fast food restaurant and ate an entire pizza to prove a point.

Some of these narcissists are honest about their dealings with others. They will practically tell you that they have an utter disregard for others. Other narcissists are a bit more subtle about the unwritten guidelines for living with someone who becomes irrationally angry when others don't go along with their demands. Here are some of the unwritten rules you may be unintentionally following:  

  • I have the perfect right to do or say whatever I want and no one should object.
  • My needs have priority, and if others don't like it they just don't understand my superiority.
  • If you don't do what I want I will become highly offended, make threats, plead with you, or criticize and blame you. If that upsets you, that's your fault. And please don't bother me with your feelings about it. It upsets me when you don't see yourself as inferior to me.
  • Relationships aren't about give and take. They are about me taking and you giving. If you give and give with the hope that you will one day get your needs met, I will string you along as long as I can.
  • When I turn on the pressure until you do what I want, or confuse you until you don't know what's up or down, it teaches me to try these techniques again.
  • I like to mix things up by taking care of you and your needs once and awhile. It keeps you off balance, making you more easily controlled, and convinces you I'm really a good person after all.

Randi Kreger is the co-author of Stop Walking on Eggshells.

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